How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow

Two Methods:Lift and fillUse TracGrabbers

Getting stuck in the snow - whether your car veered off the road, or it snowed while your car was parked - can be frustrating. The next time you're in an icy jam, try the steps below.


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    Check the tailpipe before you start the engine. If there's snow covering it, clear it. This is to prevent deadly gases from building up inside the car.
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    Dig away excessive snow and ice. Break up the ice immediately surrounding the tires. Obviously, if you have a shovel, you can dig out the snow. (This article assumes you don't have a shovel handy (or else you wouldn't be stuck, would you? If you don't have one, improvise. A trowel is a good cheap shovel that can stay in even a small car; a plastic one won't rust). Use a screwdriver or any sharp object to break up the ice that's formed below the tires. The rougher surface area will help provide traction. Remove loose snow in the direction the car is to move that is higher than the ground clearance of the car, and remove packed snow making even smaller lumps which the car rides up but fails to pass over.
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    Put snow chains on, or lay traction gadgets such as metal frames in front of, the drive wheels. (But if you had these you probably wouldn't be stuck.)
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    On vehicles without special traction equipment, the "differential" applies equal torque to each of the drive wheels (front or rear, depending on the car). They need not turn at equal speed. The purpose of this is to let the car go around turns smoothly without dragging the drive tires against the pavement. But it means that if one wheel is slipping and spinning, the other, which may have traction, is getting very little force. You need to get some traction to both drive wheels.
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    Ride the brakes. Usually, one wheel is spinning more than the other because it has less resistance. Pressing the brakes slightly will decrease the spinning (by increasing the minimum torque that would be needed to spin each wheel) and transfer some power to the other wheel so that both wheels are working to pull you out of the snow. If riding the brakes has been done for an extended period of time, the brakes may overheat. This can result in longer than expected stopping distances until they have sufficiently cooled. If it's not making progress, try something else.
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    Put the floor mats in front of the driven tires as a last resort. The mats will probably be destroyed. These are the front tires on a "front wheel drive" car and the rear tires on a "rear wheel drive" car. In a pinch, you can pull weeds or branches off the side of the road and lay them down for traction. Be very gentle on the accelerator and make sure nobody is standing behind the tires. Sometimes the wheels can make whatever you put down for traction spin out suddenly. If this doesn't work, use one or both of the following two steps.
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    Sprinkle salt, sand, and/or cat litter in front of the driven tires. The salt will help to melt ice, which tends to form when you spin the wheels (and that ice is probably the reason you're stuck). Rock salt is preferable, but table salt will also work if you use a lot of it. The sand and cat litter will provide traction. Also, if you have extra windshield wiper fluid or antifreeze (be careful with antifreeze in residential areas, pets like to drink it off the ground and it will poison them, so don't use it where it will accumulate) in your car, that can help melt the snow/ice.
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    Straighten the wheels. Turn the steering wheel to straighten the front wheels (as much as possible - limited only by any obstructions such as hydrants, signs, other vehicles, etc.). Wheels that are straight make it much easier for the car to move (getting unstuck) than if they are turned.
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    Use a low gear as you pull out. Then you will want to gently accelerate until the wheels start to slip, then back up just until the wheels start to slip, and keep doing this back and forth until you have enough room to pull out.
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    Let a little air out of the tires. They can grab a little more traction this way. STOP if the tires are visibly lower especially if you have no ready way to refill them.
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    Rock the car. Shifting quickly between forward and reverse can give you more room, but it should be a last resort. The transmission can become overloaded and fail when the momentum is shifted so quickly.
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    Take advantage of front-wheel drive. If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle and the wheels are spinning, turning the wheels in a different direction can give you the extra traction that you need. Remember to accelerate slowly or you will just dig yourself in again.

Method 1
Lift and fill

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    Clear an area for the jack. Make sure it is level if at all possible.
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    Place the jack on something firm. Your old spare hub will work. Or look around for a slab of wood.
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    Jack the most deeply stuck tire up as high as possible. Be careful, as jacks can slip easily in snow.
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    Place car mats, blankets, your spare tire, etc. under the relevant tire.
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    Drop jack and remove it.
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    Drive out of the snow.

Method 2
Use TracGrabbers

TrackGrabbers are a commercial product designed to get a stuck vehicle unstuck.

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    Install a TracGrabber on each of the drive wheels after you get stuck.
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    Clear away any obstacles making it difficult for the vehicle to move.
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    Apply just enough power for TracGrabbers to lift and move the vehicle.
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    Drive to stable terrain. Then remove the TracGrabbers.


  • Know what kind of car you have. A generic check for which wheels are your driving wheels is the way your engine is mounted in the engine bay. Looking down on the engine bay from the front of the car, if the engine sits so it is wide, you likely have front wheel drive. If the engine sits so it appears to divide the bay, you likely have rear wheel drive. Keep in mind that some SUV s or trucks however may also have four wheel drive.
  • After you get out you might notice you have picked up a vibration or steering wheel wobble at highway speeds. This is usually caused by snow getting packed into your wheels and causing an imbalance. You should stop at a safe place and knock the snow out by hand.
  • If you drive in an area that experiences real winter (as opposed to the occasional snowfall), consider installing snow tires for the winter months. All-season tires are not nearly as effective in handling snow (or mud, for that matter).
  • Keep some simple tools and aids in the trunk of the car in winter months such as: a shovel, sand, rock salt, tire chains, etc. One or more of these items can help significantly reduce the amount of time and effort needed to free a stuck car from snow and ice. A blanket and some snacks would be wise additions to such supplies for the times that require a prolonged waiting period for help to arrive.
  • Gather some small pebbles and/or small pieces of wood to jam underneath tires for added traction.
  • If you're moving forward when you break free, continue to drive at a steady pace, aiming for somewhere with less snow where you can safely stop, or get back on to the road. If you have broken free and are traveling in reverse, continue for a couple meters, then let go of the accelerator, allowing the snow to stop the car. Gently accelerate forward in the same tracks you just made with enough speed to break through the original spot.
  • When you get out, make sure your radiator has air flow. If you have snow packed in the front of the grille from a snowbank be sure and clear it out before you drive too far. It will cause overheating if the air flow is blocked.


  • Rocking the car can destroy the transmission if done to excess. If gentle rocking at lower wheel speeds doesn't free your car, call a tow truck. A year's worth of AAA/CAA Plus membership is less than 1/30th of a new transmission and it saves your back, too.
  • Excessive high speed tire spinning overheats and damages tires, and digs a deeper hole.
  • If you do veer off the road, stay in your car at all costs. You run a high risk of getting struck by another car if you don't.

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